2018-02-02 / Front Page

Medical loan closet looking for a home

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Susan Karytko, seen with her husband, Selectman Ed Karytko, was the first user of the Kennebunk Medical Equipment Loan Closet back in October. The service, which provides durable medical equipment on loan free of charge, has helped more than 50 Kennebunk residents since then, but is now in danger of folding if it cannot find a home. (Courtesy photo) Susan Karytko, seen with her husband, Selectman Ed Karytko, was the first user of the Kennebunk Medical Equipment Loan Closet back in October. The service, which provides durable medical equipment on loan free of charge, has helped more than 50 Kennebunk residents since then, but is now in danger of folding if it cannot find a home. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — A new program that helps Kennebunk residents obtain expensive medical equipment may not last the winter if it cannot find a new home.

In many ways, the Medical Equipment Loan Closet, a service of the town’s 10-member committee on aging, is a victim of its own success. One of the first undertakings of the new committee, which was created in May 2016 in partnership with Aging Excellence, the closet officially opened this past October after several months of planning and legal structuring.

Once opened, it was virtually flooded with donations — crutches, casts, commodes, walkers, wheelchairs, shower chairs, just about any form of durable medical equipment imaginable was given to the committee to launch the program.


Just a few of the durable medical equipment items held by the Kennebunk Medical Equipment Loan Closet, which it loans out to those with a need. But since this photo was taken the service of the town’s committee on aging has lost its storage space, and the program may go away if a new space can’t be found. (Courtesy photo) Just a few of the durable medical equipment items held by the Kennebunk Medical Equipment Loan Closet, which it loans out to those with a need. But since this photo was taken the service of the town’s committee on aging has lost its storage space, and the program may go away if a new space can’t be found. (Courtesy photo) Those items are loaned out free of charge to any Kennebunk resident of any age stating a need. There is no income requirement, and all the user has to do is sign a form promising to return the item in good condition when no longer needed, whether it be a wheelchair checked out for a single day’s visit to a county fair, or some item needed for long-term convalescence.

All donated items are cleaned by committee volunteers and inspected by Kennebunk Fire and Rescue staff before being let out.

Susan Karytko was the first official client of the loan closet, after it opened for business Oct. 12.

“It’s a great, great thing for the town to have because it doesn’t matter who you are or what your income is, whenever you have to do something like a serious operation, the last thing you want to do is worry about where you’re going to get all of the stuff you are going to need, and how much it’s going to cost,” she said on Monday. “For me, I had a knee replacement and I needed four different pieces of equipment during my recovery. By the time you start adding all that up, it’s quite an expense. Knowing that there is a service like this in town, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Since Karytko borrowed the first items, more than 50 residents have taken advantage of the new service, says Donna Curtis-Binette, one of three committee members who co-manage the loan closet.

Since the snow began to fly, the committee has lost access to a garage it used to store the equipment. And a local business that allowed storage on its site has since moved, costing the committee that space as well.

Since then, the hundreds of items held by the loan closet have been separated, with pieces stored here and there, in the homes of volunteers, and in outdoor sheds and barns, wherever there is room.

“It makes it hard to keep track of what we have and who has what when it’s all so scattered,” Curtis Binette said on Monday.

With so many things in so many place, there is also the logistical nightmare of trying to arrange pick-up times for items, even when it can be determined where a particular piece of equipment is being kept. Worse, Curtis-Binette says, is the toll on volunteers that comes from all of the running around and shuttling back and forth needed with managing such a decentralized operation in the dead of winter.

“I’m almost 60, and I’m the youngest one of us,” she said. “I’m afraid if we don’t find some place soon that we can use to keep all of the equipment together, we may have to discontinue the program. It’s all getting very difficult to keep up with in the winter time. We may not be able to keep at it for much longer.

“That would be such a shame, because I know the people who receive these items, whether it be for two weeks or six months, they are so grateful,” Cur- tis-Binette said. “I still tear up just thinking about it, but not long ago I delivered a wheeled walker to a man who needed it for his wife. He’s in his 80s and still works part-time just so they can survive, and when I stood there with that walker, he looked at it like it was lined in gold.”

The walker was returned six weeks later, and the man, Curtis-Binette said, was eternally grateful.

“He said, ‘You can’t believe what a relief it was that that did not have to come out of our budget,’” she recalled. “He was so touched, because a lot of this stuff is so expensive, and especially so when you consider that most of it is only needed for a relatively short time.”

And so, the need being unquestioned, the committee is reaching out to the community, asking for a space it can use free of charge. Since the loan closet is run entirely by volunteers and uses donated items, it has no budget.

“Something just 200 to 400 square feet would be ideal, so long as it is handicapped accessible and has its own entrance that we can access as needed,” Curtis-Binette said.

Running water for cleaning items would be a plus, as well.

“We’ve been knocking on doors, asking around, but so far we have not found anything,” Curtis-Binette said. “But I now Kennebunk people are so generous. So, I’m hopeful we will be able to find something soon.”

Given that the loan closet is a service of the towns committee on aging, and, as such, operates under the auspices of the town, with input and assistance from General Assistance Administrator Karen Winton, some may ask why space cannot be provided at town hall, or at the fire stations.

“The town simply does not have space adequate enough to house the equipment associated with a medical equipment loan closet,” Town Manager Mike Pardue said in a Tuesday email. “Space availability in our public safety buildings is non-existent, as is the case in town hall and public services.”

Pardue said if the committee cannot secure a space of some sort, the only alternative may be to rent a spot at taxpayer expense, although that’s a cost not cooked into the town’s operating budget at this time.

Meanwhile, Karytko says it will be a shame if others in need are not able to take advantage of the service, as she was able to do.

“You never know when you are going to need equipment like this,” she said. “There are so many people who can benefit from this. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the community. Hopefully, they will be able to find the space they need to keep it going.”

Anyone with an available space that can be used by the Kennebunk Medical Equipment Loan Closet should call 251-3097.

More information about the service is available online at wwww.kennebunkmaine.us/loancloset.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

Return to top